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The late Los Angeles Times restaurant critic, in his own words

Jonathan Gold, the Los Angeles Times restaurant critic who became the first (and only) journalist to win the Pulitzer Prize for food criticism, died Saturday evening of pancreatic cancer, the LAT reported. He was 57.

Gold is credited with being one of the first restaurant critics to laser-focus on what he called “traditional” cuisine — “I hate the word ‘ethnic,’” he said in 2009. With his forays into off-the-beaten path neighborhoods, Gold made the act of discovery part of the thrill; he would seek out the cuisines of communities on the fringe, and argue for their placement in the fabric of not only a city’s dining scene, but its culture at large. In the beginning, the perch was entirely his.

“When I first started writing about, let’s say the San Gabriel Valley, I was the only person writing about the San Gabriel Valley,” Gold told Eater in 2014. “I could write about a place that was this famous place in the community, that everybody from Hong Kong would go to, blah blah blah. It would be mine.”

Gold’s long career in criticism dated to the mid-’80s, when he launched his “Counter Intelligence” column at LA Weekly (a 2000 Counter Intelligence book, which featured more than 200 columns that had run to date, was pointedly subtitled “where to eat in the real Los Angeles”). He...

The beloved food writer opened up LA’s restaurant scene to the world

Jonathan Gold, one of the world’s most prolific and highly regarded restaurant critics, has died. He was 57.

The only food writer to win a Pulitzer Prize for food and restaurant criticism, Gold was for decades a singular voice in LA’s multi-cultural restaurant scene. The LA Times was first to break the news of Gold’s passing at St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles, a result of pancreatic cancer that was diagnosed in early July.

Having started in music writing, Gold was able to dissect and display the nuances of cuisines — often those of immigrants and the lesser-covered — in an almost lyrical way, floating through smooth metaphors and lilting prose to bestow praise on even the most unsung dishes. The documentary City of Gold chronicled the eccentric, soft-spoken critic’s routines as he crawled across the city in an old pickup truck, leaving life-changing positive reviews almost wherever he went. His reviews of places like Jitlada, Guelaguetza, and Meals by Genet helped Angelenos widen their perspective of immigrant-run restaurants, while helping those businesses a greater level of success.

In 2012, the longtime LA Weekly restaurant critic succeeded S. Irene Virbila as the LA Times restaurant critic, a position he held until his untimely death. He took his iconic list of Essential 99 restaurants, often held as the standard of restaurant compilations in LA,...

From ‘Ugly Delicious’ to ‘Parts Unknown,’ these are the food shows that defined the first half of 2018 

This post originally appeared on July 20, 2018, in “Eat, Drink, Watch” — the weekly newsletter for people who want to order takeout and watch TV. Browse the archives and subscribe now.

Welcome to your weekend, a time of unlimited possibilities. We’re a little more than halfway through a year that’s seen a number of exciting food TV shows hitting the airwaves and streaming services. As a summertime special, here’s a look back on the highlights of the year in food television so far, with episodes ranked from great to truly exceptional.

Five Excellent Food TV Episodes From the First Half of 2018
The Goldbergs/ABC
5) The Goldbergs, “Dinner With the Goldbergs”

Watch it on: ABC, Hulu, Amazon, iTunes

The gist: No matter how obnoxious you think your family members are at restaurants, they’ve got nothing on the Goldbergs. This episode of the ABC sitcom is a small masterpiece of cringe comedy, full of hilarious details culled from real-life family dining disasters.

The episode takes place at a location of now-defunct chain Beefsteak Charlie’s, where three generations of the Goldberg clan are...

Some say Frank Pepe slings the best “apizza” in the country

We’re so obsessed with pizza that the average person eats 6,000 slices of it in their lifetime. Whether that’s classic, floppy New York style slices, hefty slices of Chicago deep dish, or thick, rectangular Detroit-style, pizza is as American as American food gets.

Not so quietly, New Haven has been making noise with it’s own regional style: a thin-crust, coal-fired Neapolitan pizza that sometimes doesn’t even require cheese. The New Haven style is known locally as “apizza,” and the place you’ll find the most rabid of followings is Frank Pepe — a now-chain that opened its first location in 1925. The icon of New Haven’s pizza scene, Pepe’s still serves its original tomato pie, but ask the locals what they’re waiting in line for and they’ll surely say Pepe’s famous white clam pie.

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At 98, the iconic San Francisco restaurateur is as bold as ever. Now, she shares her life story with her friend, pastry chef Belinda Leong.

It’s not an understatement to call Cecilia Chiang one of San Francisco’s most beloved culinary figures. Her first restaurant in town, the Mandarin, opened in 1961 — a time when the white Americans she needed to support her business were far more familiar with egg foo young and chop suey than they were with the traditional dishes she served, like beggar’s chicken and smoked tea duck. Like many restaurateurs, it took Cecilia some time to find her groove in San Francisco, but she did — and by 1968, she moved the Mandarin to a bigger space in Ghirardelli Square, where she presided for over 20 years. Then came the Mandarin Beverly Hills. And then came two more restaurants. Alice Waters and Jeremiah Tower attended her cooking classes. Her cookbook is a must-have for anyone interested in Chinese cooking.

Hers is a career any chef today would envy.

I sat down with Cecilia earlier this year to talk, to hear her tell me her story (again), and to show the world the wonderful woman I’ve come to know as a close friend and mentor.

Cecilia and I officially met at a party at restaurant critic Michael Bauer’s...

Plus, Ina Garten shares a recipe from her forthcoming cookbook, and more food news to end the week

  • Congratulations to rapper and new mom Cardi B, who, according to Vibe, is the recipient of a lifetime supply of chips and guacamole from beleaguered burrito chain Chipotle. There’s no official word on why Chipotle blessed Ms. B with such a gift, but the chain must be happy with the free advertising she is providing on her Instagram feed.
  • In a potentially sweet merger, doughnut purveyor Krispy Kreme is looking to acquire cookie delivery chain Insomnia Cookies, reports CNBC.
  • More and more people are reporting illnesses linked to McDonald’s salads. The number of sick individuals has swelled to 160, according to CNN.
  • Famous Champagne maker Cristal has been adapting its winemaking process to deal with climate change. The company is focusing on organic and biodynamic growing methods, reports the New York Times.
  • Ina Garten has a new cookbook coming out this fall, and she’s offering a preview with this recipe for tomato-and-avocado salad.
  • Nutrition science has now determined full-fat dairy products are actually good, per The Atlantic.
  • In Savannah, Georgia, a terrible restaurant patron groped a waitress and paid the price. The waitress grabbed the offender, who, per Buzzfeed News, was later arrested and charged with sexual battery, and threw him to the ground. This is yet another example of a restaurant worker...

K-Town checks in with the Toronto location of James Cheese Back Ribs

There are plenty of Korean chains that jump across to North America to try and break into the market, and James Cheese Back Ribs decided Toronto was the city it wanted to land in first. In this episode of K-Town, I’m joined by Sang Kim who is helping me dive into this simple, but gut-busting meal of pork ribs slathered with Korean sauce and covered tableside with a layer of melty, gooey mozzarella cheese. It’s strange, sure, but it’s also pretty delicious.

There’s something unique about Korean food culture and how both homes and restaurants like to serve food on the table with a cheap metal butane burner. This also reinforces the communal nature of Korean dining. Kim and I settle into the ribs and talk about the Korean food scene in Toronto, how there’s a shift from the old or “South” Koreatown along Bloor Street, and the more elevated cooking happening along Yonge Street.

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Kitchen Gadgets takes on the as-seen-on-TV Copper Chef

The reviews for the lineup of products under the Copper Chef name are glowing, more than half of them anyway, and one of the most popular items for the infomercial brand is the original deep, square pan that promises to replace all the other pots and pans filling your kitchen cabinets. It’s one of a couple bold claims that Copper Chef makes, made possible by further claims that it’s completely non-stick, not-too-heavy, and “can stand up to the rigors of the hot oven.”

Host Esther Choi is testing the all-in-one wonder — sold in a set for $60 — in this episode of Kitchen Gadgets, putting the pan to the test with four different trials: even heating, non-stick ability, cooking meat prowess, and how it handles making the perfect omelette. “When you make a claim that one pan does it all, I’m already going to be skeptical about it,” says Choi.

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This week on the Eater Upsell, we learn how the anti-straw movement picked up steam and what it’s like to be a paper straw kingpin in 2018

Plastic straws have become the villain we can (mostly!) all cheer against, but how did we get here? This week on the Eater Upsell we try to find out.

First, researcher Sam Athey explains why straws are significant in the fight against plastic pollution. Eater editor Brenna Houck tells us how the anti-straw movement went from a niche environmental cause to a widespread campaign altering the policies of cities, countries, and multinational companies around the world with a little help from a bloody turtle and a B-list celebrity. Finally, David Rhodes, the global business director at Aardvark paper Straws — and maybe the busiest man in America right now — shares what it’s like to be at one of the fastest growing companies ever. He wants you to give paper straws a second chance.

If you want to learn more about the world of straws, check out our explainer here, an op-ed from a disabled plastic straw user here, and Daniel’s full interview with America’s paper straw kingpin David Rhodes here.

Listen on Apple Podcasts and subscribe.

The public image of a soggy, disintegrating paper straw is inaccurate, says maker of paper straws

From the #StopSucking campaign to the high-profile straw bans, everyone is talking about straws right now. Last week, Starbucks announced it would nix plastic straws by the year 2020. McDonald’s locations in the U.K. have vowed to switch from plastic to paper straws by later this fall. And cities like Seattle and New York have either enacted or, in NYC’s case, are proposing to enact plastic straw bans.

The movement has left many companies scrambling to find a decent paper straw — an item that many consider to be an inferior way to suck. According to David Rhodes, global director at the Indiana-based paper straw manufacturer Aardvark, it’s an unfair rap. “China copied us poorly, and the straws that you would see in Walmart, Target, Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, Jo-Ann... I call ‘em the soccer mom straws that you buy for birthdays,” he says. “Those all come from China, and they’re a couple bucks. They’ll turn your child’s milk red, and so paper straws got a bad name. And a lot of people still [say]: ‘Paper straws are terrible. They fall apart. They get soggy. I’ve used four of them in my drink.’”

Aardvark was founded in 2007 (its parent company, Precision, creates packaging, tubing, and medical supplies), and over the years, its developed innovations like the 10-inch “jumbo” straws, striped cocktail...

The general manager of Majordomo leads a team with a focus on growth and guest experience

When Christine Larroucau was young, she loved the way her mother prepared for houseguests, the attention she paid to the china that was to be used and the special flan that was to be made. She loved going to restaurants, too, and if her friends were going out for dinner, she was usually the one who made the plans. Still, a career in restaurant hospitality did not occur to her; instead, when she thought about her future, she thought she might be a cartoonist, or maybe a professional field hockey player. Then one day, during her sophomore year at the University of Southern California, she discovered a third option.

Larroucau, who was born in Miami and raised in Houston, majored in business at USC. During one of her classes, a Hillstone Restaurant Group representative was a guest speaker. The idea that she could help conceptualize and pull together the myriad of components required to create a restaurant appealed to her. “It occurred to me, ‘Oh, there’s a career path there,’” Larroucau says. “Once I really thought of restaurants as a career, I became obsessed a little bit.”

That obsession led to an internship with Hillstone and, other than brief foray into food PR, Larroucau’s career trajectory has been in restaurants ever since. When she was all of 22, she was hired as the floor...

A new report details allegations against John Schnatter, who stepped down last week following a leaked recording of him using a racial slur

Papa John’s founder John Schnatter resigned as chairman of his company last week after a recording of him using the N-word was leaked to Forbes — and the pizza chain founder hasn’t gone quietly into the night: He’s accused the company’s board of directors of failing to investigate the incident properly, and says he regrets stepping down. But a new investigative report from Forbes alleges more misconduct, saying Schnatter presided over a “bro” culture at Papa John’s, where women were often the target of sexual harassment, and himself engaged in sexual misconduct that resulted in at least two confidential settlements.

Schnatter is accused of stalking and groping a woman in 1999; he later claimed the woman was trying to extort him for $5 million, but the situation ended with a confidential settlement. Forbes also reports that a 2009 “incident” involving a 24-year-old female marketing employee resulted in another confidential settlement, and anonymous sources say there have also been more settlements over the years. Meanwhile, sources say women at the company were subjected to harassing behavior from Schnatter and other male employees, such as being asked about their bra size or if they were menstruating. Schnatter also allegedly asked employees to spy on their colleagues, and sometimes read workers’ emails. Schnatter, through a representative, “disputed” most of the...

Every year, Eater editors search for talented up-and-comers in the restaurant industry to name to our latest class of Young Guns. The rules are simple: The contenders must be under the age of 30 or have fewer than five years experience in the bar and restaurant world. And they’re dedicated to their craft and doing so well that we expect they’ll soon be household names.

We begin by reading through thousands of reader-submitted nominees and consulting with our committee of esteemed industry veterans and local city editors. We ask ourselves, what is the person doing in their restaurant/bar/community now? What are their mentors and coworkers saying about them? What are their aspirations and how do they hope to achieve them? This is Eater’s seventh year naming Young Guns and the process of selecting winners never gets easier.

In May, Eater announced 54 semifinalists, an inspiring group of chefs (sweet and savory), front of house pros, restaurateurs, coffee folks, and more, who are working across the country. Today, 18 new Young Guns will be revealed, joining the ranks of restaurant owners, award winners, and industry talent that’s shaping the future of the dining world.

While experience, location, and areas of focus all vary, everyone in this year’s class seems to think beyond themselves when considering their careers. They’re not simply saying, what can I do to succeed? Instead, they’re thinking about how can we all work together to...

The chef created a restaurant where Cambodians can reconnect with their culture

That I’m eating kuy teav phnom penh, Cambodian rice noodle soup with minced pork, minutes from the BART station in Fruitvale, Oakland, feels akin to magic. It’s perfect — savory and slightly sweet and comforting, the perfect food. And Nyum Bai — open since this past February — feels something like magic, too.

Its patio shares space with a store selling miscellany — poignant-feeling Hillary Clinton piñatas. On a Saturday afternoon, the restaurant is all millennials — the exception is two tiny babies — while sixties Cambodian rock plays in the background, all warbling singing and frenetic drums. Behind a window, the Cambodian-American chef/owner, Nite Yun, cooks some of the Bay Area’s best Cambodian food. “I hope that this is a space where first- and second-generation Cambodians can come and reconnect with their heritage and country,” Yun says, though that wasn’t always her mission. From the incubator program La Cocina, to pop-ups, to a brick-and-mortar in Emeryville, and now her restaurant in Fruitvale, cooking was not always what she’d planned.

Nite Yun’s story starts in 1982: She was born in a refugee camp in Thailand. When Nite was two, in 1984, her parents headed, as refugees, to America. Though they’d been sponsored to go to Texas, they settled in Stockton — a town in California’s Central Valley, about an hour and a half from San Francisco, and where...

The executive chef is known for her ability to triage just as much as for her falafel and tehina milkshakes

A year shy of thirty, Caitlin McMillan has quickly built a resume as strong as her reputation as one of the most dependable chefs in Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook’s Philadelphia-based restaurant group CookNSolo. Solomonov and Cook have referred to her as their “one-woman ‘special forces’ sent to any and all projects that need a boost, positioning the project on track and moving on to the next one with a quiet humming of efficiency.”

McMillan joined CookNSolo in early 2014 as a line cook at Zahav, the group’s lauded Israeli restaurant, and was soon promoted to sous chef, a position she held for a year. When Dizengoff, CookNSolo’s hummus stall concept, opened in Chelsea Market, McMillan commuted between New York and Philadelphia for three months to help open it. She returned to Philadelphia permanently to open another Dizengoff in Whole Foods Market and then worked on menu development for Rooster Soup Co. (CookNSolo’s luncheonette that donates 100% of its profits to Philadelphia’s most vulnerable citizens). Earlier this year, McMillan was named executive chef of Goldie, CookNSolo’s latest hit, a vegan and kosher falafel shop known not only for its chickpea fritters, but also its tehina shakes.


Seeing an opportunity to influence food and farming in the region, the chef went from working the line to researching and experimenting in a lab

In college at UC Davis, wanting to sustain his performance as a student wrestler, Niels Brisbane thought about food mostly in terms of nutritional optimization. Energy in, energy out. It was only when he met and began cooking with a Japanese-American teammate that he began to see there was so much more to it than that. “I was just blown away when he explained the five different types of soy sauce to me,” Brisbane said.

This revelation — and the opportunity his friend gave him to “interface [his cuisine] with some of the food science I was learning at school” — kickstarted what has now become an obsessive approach to exploring the wealth of options and experiments one can do with any ingredient. Brisbane graduated with a degree in biology but soon after went to study at the Seattle Culinary Institute, aiming to put his interest in both food science and the diversity of food to good use. He was dedicated to getting it right, too: “I ended up asking for an internship at Canlis while I was still in school,” he said. “I worked there 35 hours a week and was at school about another 35 to 40 hours a week.”

While establishing himself at the well-known fine dining establishment in Seattle, Brisbane...

With his new company Yes Plz, the co-founder plans to democratize the “fancy coffee universe”

At 27 years old, Sumi Ali talks about coffee with the kind of calm specificity that could turn a non-believer into a missionary. I tell him I’m a coffee noob, someone who’s barely dabbled, is underwhelmed by the taste, and overwhelmed by the breadth of “choice.” Hip artisanal shops? Corner bodegas? Chain stores? All out to get me, all waiting impatiently while I meander through a menu the size of the Hall of Faces in Game of Thrones.

So when I tell this to Ali, the co-founder of direct-to-consumer coffee company Yes Plz, he perks up a bit over the phone. Maybe his company’s plan — to get a $15 bag of a hand-picked blend into the homes of anyone who wants it — is for someone like me?

Born to Pakistani immigrants in New Mexico, Ali fell in love with coffee at his first barista job in the suburbs of Chicago. “I kind of felt like a rock star,” he said of his teenage years roasting coffee. He’s in many ways the antithesis of a company founder. He’s soft-spoken and humble, but enthusiastic. He’s a prolific Instagrammer of his family — his wife Christine and their dog Quincy.

His career eventually led him to working on a $1 cup of coffee with Tony Konecny, his fellow co-founder. The two share a...

With a fresh approach to gin, vodka, and interiors, You & Yours is changing the way San Diego drinks

Laura Johnson realized she was running out of options. For almost a year, the University of San Diego graduate had taken every distilling workshop and apprenticeship she could find — training at Dry Fly Distilling, Wine & Spirits Education Trust, and the Distilled Spirits Epicenter Master Distiller’s program — but she couldn’t get an entry-level job in the industry.

“When I realized I that my desired path wasn’t panning out how I wanted it to, I decided to do what I know how to do,” she told me. Apprenticeship wasn’t in the cards. It was a clarifying moment; she was going to have to start her distillery to work in one and started drawing up a business plan. “Fuck it. I’ll just learn everything else along the way.”

Johnson, who opened San Diego’s You & Yours Distilling Co. in 2017, discovered her interest in distilling when she was 18 years old. Her father took her on a trip to Cuba as a high-school graduation gift before she set off for college. The pair took a trip to the legendary Havana Club distillery, which left an impression. “It wasn’t an a-ha moment,” she said. “But, as cliché as it sounds, it was life-changing. I was really fascinated with the whole process of how spirits came to be.”

In college, Johnson, an international...

Drawing inspiration from Lebanese culinary traditions and elsewhere, the chef creates one-of-a-kind American pastries

Once Lena Sareini puts an item on the menu, she’ll never repeat it again. This, of course, causes distress to patrons who first try and then become obsessed with Sareini’s creations. She regularly gets emails, asking her to bring back favorites like the popular peach pavlova, a meringue, brandy cream, and lemon shortbread crumble concoction with both fresh and caramelized peaches.

“I am always working on new things, that’s my favorite part of the craft,” she says, “There’s always something out there that I haven’t done yet and that I can learn.”

Sareini, 25, is the pastry chef at Selden Standard. Founded by co-owners Andy Hollyday and Evan Hansen in 2014, the locally-sourced New American eatery is now one of Detroit’s best and most beloved restaurants in a rapidly booming food scene becoming well known far beyond the city’s borders.

The pastry chef’s distinct culinary touch blends her classical training and Lebanese-American heritage to bring dishes to the menu like goat cheese kanafeh accompanied by pistachio, blood orange, and tarragon and chocolate covered halawa paired with tahini caramel, candied chickpeas, and feuilletine, crispy flakes traditionally used in French pastry.

Born and raised in Dearborn, Michigan, Sareini graduated in 2013 from the culinary baking and pastry arts program...